Some day, you’re going to need a favor. Take finding an internship or job, for example. Your career center or instructors can provide some direction. To get the offer, you’ll need people who can feed you inside information and advocate for you. Chances are, these people are strangers to you now.
So how do you find these people? You can introduce yourself through LinkedIn for starters. And you’ll always find those who’ll spend time with a sincere college student. But people often go out of their way to help those with whom they share a connection. For many, there are few stronger bonds than those between graduate and alma mater.
And it’s a bond you can use to build relationships. Chances are, you’ve lived in the same dorms, taken the same classes, eaten at the same dives, and participated in the same traditions, clubs, and events. These are people who’ve been in your shoes – and can see themselves in you. And they are the ones who are most apt to open doors for you.
WHAT CONSTITUTES A STRONG ALUMNI NETWORK?
And that begs a question: Where are the best schools for alumni networking? Well, that’s not easy to measure. Networking, by its nature, encompasses thousands of interpersonal acts – including those of generosity. It comes in different forms – from mentoring to introductions. What’s more, networking often spans careers, with alumni often helping each other find jobs, gain promotions, and land business over the years.
That said, some alumni networks are more likely to support fellow graduates than others. That’s the underlying theme behind the “50 Most Powerful Alumni Networks” rankings published by Best College Values, a website that arms prospective students with tuition data, along with advice on managing finances, choosing the right school and major, and getting the most from their college investment.
Here’s how the alumni network ranking works. Best College Values created a formula that included variables such as alumni giving, employment rates, and student ratings of alumni network helpfulness. The ranking also harnessed LinkedIn profiles to identify those alumni who held management positions. That said, Best College Values doesn’t share the weight that each variable carries – nor does it disclose school-specific data except for percentages of alumni giving and alumni in management roles. Even more, it lumps undergraduate and advanced-degree holders together. And it doesn’t break alumni out by degree (i.e. business or engineering), either.
STANFORD GRADS RANKED AS THE BEST NETWORK
Overall, Stanford University possessed the strongest alumni network, according to Best College Values. Their overall score – 30.53 – was nearly double that of the 50th-ranked program (Michigan State at 17.70). More than a third of Stanford alumni hold management positions and have made donations back to the school (though the consistency and amount of giving are not factored in by Best College Values). According to U.S. News & World Report, Stanford University is ranked fourth among undergraduate programs in the U.S. It maintains an $18.6 billion endowment and its alumni range from Peter Thiel to Chelsea Clinton. The drawbacks for Stanford? Well, aside from not having an undergraduate business program, barely 6% of applicants are ever accepted. Tuition can be pricey (wrap your head around roughly $45,000 for tuition and another $14,000 for room and board…per year). What’s more, the school enrolls just 15,887 students – fewer than a third of many major state schools. The quality is certainly there, but quantity is another matter altogether.
Harvard College ranks just a hair below Stanford on the Best College Values list, with a slightly higher percentage of alumni giving and a slightly lower percentage of alumni in the management ranks. Along with a high-powered network, Harvard graduates also bear less debt than many, with nearly 63% receiving need-based aid and only 26% carrying debt after graduation ($12,560 on average).Rounding out the top five schools for alumni networking are Columbia University, Dartmouth College, and the University of Notre Dame.
Last year, Notre Dame was ranked as the top undergraduate business program by U.S. News and the third-best undergraduate business program by Poets&Quants. However, there were several other highly-ranked business programs tied to larger universities with powerful networks. They include: Cornell University (ranked sixth for its alumni network), the University of Pennsylvania (13th), Georgetown University (14th), University of California-Berkeley (15th), University of North Carolina (16th), University of Michigan (17th), University of Virginia (18th), Emory University (19th), University of Chicago (20th), University of Texas (21st), and New York University (25th).
DARTMOUTH AMONG BEST FOR BOTH ALUMNI GIVING AND MANAGEMENT REPRESENTATION
Best College Values’ data also lends some insight into the engagement and influence of alumni. For example, alumni giving is one reflection of how satisfied graduates are with their alma mater. Logically, schools with higher gift participation are more likely to have alumni who’ll lend a hand to current students and graduates. In this category, Princeton tops the list, with 60% of alumni donating back to their alma mater. Princeton is followed by Dartmouth College (49%) and the University of Notre Dame (44%). Conversely, the University of Pennsylvania and Boston University graduated the stingiest alums with just 8% giving money. George Washington University (9%), New York University (9%) and the University of Illinois (10%) followed a similar pattern.
By the same token, alumni of those schools where a higher percentage of graduates work in management are in a better position to sway hiring decisions. If you’re seeking an alumni network with strong representation in management, Dartmouth is the place to be. Nearly 40% of their graduates hold management roles, according to Best Value Colleges. Dartmouth is closely followed by Northwestern University (38%), and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (37%). Those schools that produced the lowest percentage of alumni in management include Texas A&M University (17%) and the University of Alabama (20%).
To see if your school made the top 50, check out the ranking on the next two pages.